Throughout the month of August Sean Leahy of Yahoo Sports’ Puck Daddy has invited bloggers, fans and writers of each NHL team to select four people that best define the face of their franchise and helped shaped its history. Those players, coaches and/or team executives would then have their images sculpted into and enshrined upon that team’s “Mt. Puckmore”.
Earlier in the week, Aaron Brown and Laura Astorian of Bird Watchers Anonymous guided us on a tour of Thrasherville’s Mt. Puckmore State Park. There they unveiled the images that they carved upon our mountain monument. Three players…Ilya Kovalchuk, Dan Snyder and Dany Heatley…were included as well as former GM and now team president Don Waddell.
The Kovy and Snyder selections are two that I would also have made. However, I would have chosen two others instead of Heatley and Waddell…Slava Kozlov and radio voice of the Thrashers Dan Kamal.
Kozlov played in 537 games as a Thrasher scoring 145 goals and 271 assists. He’s nothing short of a class act and a professional through & through. So he’d be my third selection. The Grand Kamalian has delivered Thrashers action over the airwaves since day one and his love, passion and dedication to this team and his profession has come through as crystal clear as his play-by-play calls.
Other consideration would have to be given to Ray “Big Ball of Hate” Ferraro and “The Sheriff”, Jeff Odgers.
Regardless of whom you might have picked to place upon this Thrasherville summit of historic figures, it certainly makes for quality discussion and debate. So, hats off to Mr. Brown and Ms. Astorian for performing the role of tour guides at Thrasherville’s Mt. Puckmore State Park so well.
But now, let me lead you around to the backside of the park…past the finely manicured lawns and well-stocked gift shops…beyond the maintenance sheds and garbage dumpsters that are tucked neatly away from the view of tourists. There, in a remote corner of the park, we find another mountain… albeit one not quite as tall, majestic and picturesque as Mt. Puckmore. It is much less of a “mountain majesty” as it is a “bump on the backside” of Thrasherville State Park.
That’s right kids… this weekend we take a class trip to Mt. Flushmore.
So everyone put on your hiking boots, grab hold of the line rope, watch your step and be mindful of the other park patrons. Oh, and if you’ve brought a packed lunch, don’t put it down for a second. There are a couple crafty bears that will snatch it up in a flash.
Now the first thing you’ll all notice is, in stark contrast to the majestic mountain in front of the park, this slope is only meant for those who we remember in… shall we say… a less-fond manner. Whereas Mt. Puckmore is reserved for those we feel best represent the faces of the franchise, this particular peak is set aside for those who we might wish had never shown their face here at all. It is indeed a special place in Thrasherville infamy.
And so, as we arrive at the base of the mountain, allow me to display the four images that I have chosen to blast out of the stone facing of Mt. Flushmore.
Alex Bourret: The first round draft pick by Don Waddell in the now infamous “Trade-Down Draft of ‘05”, Bourret represents what I believe is the worst ever first round pick the Thrashers have made…yes, that includes Patrik Stefan. Waddell traded away the 8th overall, then 12th overall pick to take him at 16th, passing over such players as Anze Kopitar and Marc Staal. That Bourret never played a single game at the NHL level just adds to the frustration when recalling that 2005 draft.
He was ultimately dealt to the New York Rangers in exchange for Pascal Dupuis who, in turn, made his way to Pittsburgh with Marian Hossa in 2008. Dupuis has his name engraved on the Stanley Cup with the rest of the 2008-09 Penguins.
Bourret played three seasons in the AHL where he scored 25 goals and 60 assists in 156 games. Last year he played in the Czech Republic for HC Kometa Brno where he netted but one assist in 16 games and in June he signed a one-year contract with High1 of Asia League Ice Hockey.
Upon hearing news of the Bourret signing, High1 fans in Chuncheon, South Korea logged on to the team’s fan blog site to exclaim…“The cup is ours”.
Alexei Zhitnik: If Bourret represents draft pick lows, then Zhitnik’s face surely is the one that can best represent ill-advised trade acquisitions. When the Thrashers found themselves in danger of sliding out of the playoff picture in February 2007, Don Waddell hit the panic button. Sent to Philadelphia was promising defensive prospect Braydon Coburn in exchange for veteran defenseman Alexei Zhitnik.
While Zhitty did play well for Atlanta down the stretch, the next year he personified everything that was wrong with that season’s defensive play. In the summer of ’08, shortly after opining how Zhitnik would play a big part in Atlanta’s future, Waddell bought out his contract. Zhitnik then spent two seasons being paid $1.16 million a year to not play for the Thrashers.
Coburn, on the other hand, has been getting paid to play for Philadelphia, both in regular season games and the playoffs. During a 2008 playoff game between the Flyers and Capitals, I recall hearing the TV play-by-play saying something like, “…and Coburn wins the puck in the corner. Ya know, I still can’t believe Philly got him from Atlanta for, who was it, Alexei Zhitnik?”
There were audible snickers, a chuckle…then they continued with the game.
Todd White: I would place the likeness of Todd White on the face of Mt. Flushmore to represent offseason UFA signings gone bad. White came to Atlanta in the summer of 2007 and Don Waddell sold him to Thrasherville as the new top-line center…the man to center Ilya Kovalchuk’s line. Now, in fairness to Todd, he’s not the one that placed that albatross of a label around his neck. He’s a second or third liner at best…not that there’s anything wrong with that. But White’s soft play on both ends of the ice soon earned him the nickname “Charmin” and he also found his image on my milk carton due to his propensity to disappear for games at a time.
A few weeks ago, White was dealt to the New York Rangers…the same team that took Bourret off of our hands. The Thrashers got in return a player that has suited up for 2 NHL games in the past two seasons and another that they immediately put on waivers.
Well done, Mr. Dudley.
Don Waddell: OK, so what name has constantly popped-up when discussing the first three faces for Mt. Flushmore? Uh-huh, Don Waddell… the man who held the title of Thrashers general manager from day one to just last April. Waddell has been the one consistent with this team and, for better or worse, is the main reason they are where they are now. Nice guy…yes he is. Sincerely wants this team to succeed…yes he does. Better at running the business of the organization than on-ice talent evaluator…very possibly so.
Now, there are many who would say Mr. Waddell does truly belong here…that really the Great Octocluster that make up the AS, LLC are far more deserving of this honor. That may be so, but try getting all eight of those guys up there. It’d be a logistics nightmare.
Don not only has held the title of GM, executive VP and now team president, but he has also been the head coach of the Thrashers. Twice he has had to take over behind the bench after having to fire two coaches that he himself hired. His overall record there is 38-39-1-8. So not only has he GM-ed the team to a losing record, he has also coached them to one as well.
Hopefully, his tenure as team president will be more successful than his previous position. I feel his first decision in that role…announcing the promotion of Rick Dudley to GM…was a very good one. And if the team plays as well as many think they can given the roster moves he’s orchestrated so far, maybe we can get the sandblaster out and change some of the faces on the mountain.
The mountain in front of the park, I mean… Mt. Puckmore. Lord help us if others perform so poorly that they become worthy of replacing any one of these guys.
And now if you’ll follow me, let me guide you to the gift shop. Sorry…there are no vuvuzelas for sale, but I hear Kovalchuk #17 Thrashers jerseys are 95% off and anyone purchasing a Todd White #12 jersey will get a free carton of milk…